Friday, Jul. 13, 2012
Pros honor Dos Palos graduate
By David Witte / email@example.com
LOS BANOS A year ago, Cody Martin was a collegiate All-American preparing to go into the ranks of professional baseball.
Today, the former Dos Palos High pitcher is preparing for his 15th start of the season with the Lynchburg Hillcats in the Carolina League, a Class A-Advanced league -- the eastern equivalent of the California league, home to the Modesto Nuts.
On Monday, Martin, the son of Chowchilla Elementary School District's Chuck Martin and nephew of Los Banos High principal Dan Martin, was named the Carolina League Pitcher of the Week for the second time this season.
"I think it's definitely a big honor," Martin said after batting practice on Wednesday, one of his off days in the rotation. "There's quite a few guys throwing throughout the week -- about 40 starting pitchers, plus the bullpen guys -- so it's pretty awesome knowing I had the best week out of all those guys."
Martin's 2012 season has been a success so far -- the 22-year-old carries a 9-6 record (in 14 starts and three relief appearances) and a 3.13 earned-run average into tonight's start against the Salem (Va.) Red Sox. In 772/3 innings, the right-hander racked up 87 strikeouts while walking 25 and allowing 70 hits as the Hillcats won the first half of the season's Northern Division standings at 39-31. Lynchburg currently sports a 10-10 second-half record, tied for first in the division.
"I'm very pleased with the way the kid has been playing," Hillcats manager Luis Salazar said. "Our rotation has been solid, and he's been a very big surprise. He's become one of the top pitchers in the league."
Martin, whose fastball averages 88 to 91 miles per hour, wasn't always a finesse pitcher. Under coach Jason Von Allman at Dos Palos High, he says he relied more on blowing his fastball past batters.
"I've definitely grown up a bit and perfected my craft," he said. "High school was more about me throwing harder than anybody. Now, everybody throws hard, and a lot of guys throw harder than me, so I focus more on command and putting it where I want."
His repertoire includes a changeup, a cutter and a sharp-breaking curveball he has confidence in to get batters out.
As a freshman at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., Martin took the role of closer and set a new school record with nine saves. As a senior in 2011, he broke his own record with 12 saves and was named first-team All-American -- the first Gonzaga first-team All-American since Nate Gold in 2002.
The hype was good enough for the Atlanta Braves to draft him in the seventh round (236th overall). Martin's transition to pro ball began easily with the Danville Braves, an advanced rookie team. Martin pitched nine innings in eight relief appearances and gave up no runs while striking out 14 before promoting to the low-A Rome Braves in Georgia.
Despite those numbers, Martin tried to keep his head out of the clouds.
"There's guys that have been around for a few years, and you don't want to come in acting like a big shot. You have to be kind of modest," he said. "It's not like high school and college where it's all fun -- it's a job. It's not about having a fun, this is a way guys put food on the table."
In Rome, the youngster gave up his first runs as a pro -- in 241/3 innings, he gave up four earned runs for a 1.48 ERA, while fanning 35 and walking just four.
It wasn't until he got to Lynchburg that he switched to a starter, and it's taken some adjustment.
"It's a little more stress being out there for more than an inning," he said. "You're pitching once every five days, instead of throwing every day. You've got to have your good stuff on that day."
Even more stressful are the batters he faces in each start.
"All the hitters have experience facing professional pitchers," he said. "They've seen everything, and they have a lot more discipline at the plate than younger guys who just go up there swinging."
The highlight so far was a few weeks ago when he carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Martin said the players all sat at the opposite end of the bench from him to avoid jinxing it.
Martin wouldn't have any of that, though. He got up, walked over and joined in the chatter to help keep himself loose.
As well as the transition to starter has gone, Salazar still sees Martin as a bullpen guy, and said that's probably where he will have the most success as he advances deeper into the organization.
"I think he just needs to stay strong -- it's been a long season for them, but he's in good shape," Salazar said. "And he's just got to wait to go to the next level. He's going to have success."
Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at 388-6565 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org